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Generic Christianity and the Holy Spirit

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What is generic christianity?

Def.: Adjective: Generic ju’ne-rik

1. Applicable to an entire class or group

2. Popular

Generic christianity, with a small ‘c’, is an attempt to adopt/adapt certain insights and values of the Primitive Church as a guide to the application of Scripture in the context of each succeeding generation of believers. While today’s generic christianity attempts to hold on to authentic values it, for the most part, it represents a post-Christian perspective lacking the essential Spirit.

The landscape of the world has changed over the past 2000 years. Our lives reflect a vastly different civil culture than that of our ancient forefathers. Politics, science, and technology have changed our way of understanding and interpreting the Scriptures. The strict conservative lives of those first Christians have gradually over time changed with the religious and political landscape and less, and less, resemble the Spiritually dynamic lives of the original Christians. This creeping change has introduced confusion and doubt into the claims of Christ and the Apostles. There have been periods of true Spiritual flare-ups, for example, the Anabaptist, but that too, after 500 years, has cooled because the Church chose to follow competing spirits.

Thus, not all christianity is Christianity in the foundational or initial sense. Today’s ecumenically slanted christianity is intellectually comfortable with left-leaning scholarship and resist drawing any sharp lines differentiating the two. To question the spiritual leaders or the salvation of any individual is taboo and, the one last really authentic doctrine which was validated by the cross, the doctrine of non-resistance to the evil man, is scorned, ridiculed, and rejected. But, that foundational doctrine is the one that draws the most distinct line between ancient and modern Christianity, between christianity and Christianity.

Institutionalized popular christianity of the 21st Century is Christianity without the Spirit of God. This christianity is the church reflected in the words of Jesus when He asks the question, “Will I even find faith on the earth when I return?” This is generic christianity.

The Responsibility of the Individual Christian

What is the responsibility of those who claim to be Christian? Is it to adapt a new interpretation of the Bible to the current culture? Is it to establish a new orthodox creed from the perspective of modernized christianity? Is it to create a standard theological and ethical formula to achieve uniformity among diverse cultures? Is it to hold hands with the religions of the world to promote peace? Is it to color truth with a hundred shades of gray to avoid being offensive? The answer to all of these questions is, NO!

The responsibility of the Christian is to be filled and led by the Spirit of Christ. The Governor of the Kingdom of Christ is the Spirit of Christ. If Christians confuse the Spirit and heart of Christ with something resembling the fallen nature of man then it cannot walk truly in love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, hope, and peace. All of these words have been redefined by generic christianity and adapted to the 21st Century Church. We have associated the Spirit with the flesh and feelings. All of the signs of the Spirit we look for today must be manifested in some form of emotion or feeling to be valid or legitimate. Feelings and emotions have taken the reigns out of the hands of the Spirit and put them in the hands of the flesh. The Holy Spirit demands that we see through different eyes and from a different perspective which is altogether apart from our definitions and emotions. The Spirit heals our blindness by making Jesus the eyes through which all Scripture is read, focusing our attention on the pattern and walk of Jesus’ life as the authentic example of God’s will for His sons and daughters.

Our Problem

Since the Christianity that is prevalent today is generic christianity then we can rightly assume the problem to likewise be generic, common, and popular, and applicable to an entire class of people. As Christians, we proudly claim the Bible to be the Book for the Church, but that is not a completely true statement. Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible is just another book open to numerous interpretations and opinions. Our problem is that we bring to the table a plethora of presuppositions that are faulty. A presupposition is an assumption that is taken for granted. From the time we are born our little brain starts gathering information about the world we live in and from that information we learn to formulate suppositions all based on how they affect us personally. The parent’s job is to correctly inform the child of those things that will benefit or harm them based on their idea of truth. When certain patterns or effects begin to emerge they start, unconsciously, to calculate the odds of success or failure based on their fleshly desires and perceived needs. In other words, they begin to “presuppose” certain things to be true or false, or good or bad, according to their experiences. This process of gathering and cataloging information goes on their entire life. These presuppositions become the matrix or filter through which every thought must pass and forms every conclusion which is reached. Social animals share certain generic presuppositions in common, through school, church, or culture, that influence life lived together in a social order called society. This consensus of belief is all well and good and ordained by God as a means to control and govern nonbelievers – those without Holy Spirit guidance – and to judge their actions according to accepted social norms. For very many years the Church has learned and passed along these suppositions, blended together with Biblical truth, to eager students at universities and colleges, and to families who pass along traditional values and rarely question the process. If this is true, that modern Christianity is built on this matrix of accepted presupposed values passed down from generation to generation, where is there left for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit? How can the Bible be the Book of the Church when the words of that Book are viewed through a fogged lens, producing tainted commentaries, creeds, statements of faith, rituals, denominational positions, and liturgies of mere men? If the Word of God must first pass through these finely weaved presuppositional filters, and every filter is of a differing complexity and refinement, why would we expect the Spirit of God to participate in such a scheme? The Holy Spirit will not participate in any spiritual hobby-craft of men regardless that it takes place by men of high esteem, respect, or reverence. The Church cannot and does not contribute to the canon of Scripture any authority, but rather we must recognize and accept the divine authority of the Spirit-inspired text. The Bereans of old searched Scripture for confirmation of truth, today we read the Bible and look for confirmation from the commentaries of men.

The warrant for this authority is found not so much in the text of the Bible as it is in the Spirit of the Bible and of God who initiated the writing of those words and gave it to the Church to guide it in its understanding and use. It is not the job of men to interpret the mysteries and riddles of the text, that is the job of the Spirit Himself, exclusively, He is the interpreter. Once understood it becomes the responsibility of the individual to obediently act, in faith, in the name of Christ, on the basis of trust, in that inspired text.

Listening to the Spirit

A distinguishing perspective of Born Again believers is their insistence that because the New Testament is the record of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, it has final authority over the Old Testament. The believer’s authority is specifically that of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and revealed through His Spirit, and not Moses, the Lawgiver. The Christian’s mandate is to be filled with that Spirit and to follow Christ. Because the New Testament is the trustworthy witness it is extremely important to read and study that book. The Old Testament was a preparatory document, the historical account, and record of God’s dealing with Israel preparing the way for Christ and a New document, Jeremiah 31, which is to be written on the tablets of flesh and not on stone. The New Testament is the culmination of, fulfillment, and replacement of the Old Testament. Ultimately, this heart-document, illuminated by the Spirit which has taken residence there, is where we make our appeal for understanding.

Our Problem

Protestant leaders through the ages continue the unenlightened pattern of appealing to the Old Testament law in order to establish a socio-political-religious device within which the church should function. This, in effect, was an attempt to link the Spirit (church) to the state (secular) producing a hybrid structure for the sake of security in both worlds, a community that straddled the fence with one foot in the world and one foot in generic christianity. What they did not realize was, that the fence is wholly in the world. This fence sitting has allowed community development in which civil order is founded on the Old Testament laws. The later debates, between the Reformers, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, merely continued the Catholic argument, from which they came, of whether the spiritual trumped the secular in authority, or visa-versa, but both agreed that the Testaments – Old and New – shared authority in the institutional church. For example, when the Reformers would issue a claim of heresy they fully expected the death sentence to be carried out by the “Christian” government. Consequently, the church today continues a similar pattern. Patriotism and Christianity have become synonymous terms and the new mandate of generic christianity is to procure a christian government which will secure all their “rights” guaranteed by a constitution based on “an eye for an eye” Old Testament rule.

Where does the Holy Spirit fit into this scenario? He does not fit at all! Faith and trust have become only words with no value like “clouds without rain.” The Holy Spirit will be our ONLY choice or He will be no choice at all because it is explicitly stated that we cannot serve two masters, and generic christianity has made its choice, and it has chosen the kingdom of this world with its governments and authorities. The institutions of these authorities have become, for these christians, the “salt and light” of God’s Kingdom on earth. Like the Reformers before them, they suppose that the implementing of Old Testament laws of government will produce good Christian civilizations. Admittedly, basing government rules on Old Testament law has proven the best way to govern sinful men, but it is not the Christ way. All human governments are of this world and are lead by equally sinful men who are citizens of this world and not of Heaven. The Holy Spirit, i.e. the Spirit of life and freedom, cannot lead when its subjects are voluntarily constrained by the laws of bondage and death. True Christians have put themselves under a new law, the Law of Christ, the Royal Law, the perfect Law of liberty, which is freedom and life in Jesus. Under this New Law Christians are free to be led by the Spirit into all righteousness. Christians are subject to the laws of this world only as visitors from another kingdom passing through a foreign country are required to obey the laws of the land as long as those laws require no acts of sedition or treason against their native country. As citizens of Heaven, we are to deliver a message from our King to a rebellious people to return home and to “flee the wrath to come.” It is the Holy Spirit’s duty to enable and remind its subjects to remain focused on their role and to not become caught up in the deceit of the Prince of this world.

Conclusion

Finally, related to everything said above is the concept of discipleship, the imitation of Christ. Discipleship is like an apprenticeship. A disciple is one who learns by following the example of the master and not by just calling him lord. The Holy Spirit is given to lead the apprentice into all the righteousness of Christ. Jesus set the pattern to follow and the Holy Spirit continuously points the disciple back to this pattern. Jesus, filled with the Spirit, endured government and social hostilities toward His message and was executed as a political and social criminal. Jesus never shrank back from crossing the lines of political, religious, personal, or social, and set that path for us to follow. To have and keep faith means to persevere in this pattern modeled by Jesus, and acting with charity, forgiveness, and peace, as we are led by His Spirit.

The goal of the Spirit is to teach a correct understanding of Scripture to the children of God. His goal is not theoretical knowledge but rather practical behavior which is “justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17. Primitive Christians were practical in their obedience which required a participation in the life and mandate of Jesus. It is the Spirit that leads, enables, and transforms us in and through the discipline of following. This way of living is called taking up the cross and following Jesus. The Christian life is the way of the cross. This way of the cross is a summons to a life of Spirit-led non-resistance that directed Jesus to the cross.

3 replies on “Generic Christianity and the Holy Spirit”

Steve – I should have guessed that Conrad Grebel would be a favorite of yours! Now I will have to learn more about Michael Sattler, as well…

Steve – another great post. My wife and I are reading a biography of Conrad Grebel, a contemporary of Zwingli and leader in the Anabaptist movement. It’s interesting to see how Conrad began as a follower of Zwingli but eventually parted company when Zwingli compromised his own beliefs. As always, the sheep were in the minority and hated by the hirelings, thieves, robbers, and wolves. David

David,

Thank you. Conrad Grebel and Michael Sattler are two of my favorite historical characters. Both became Martyrs although Conrad died after being released from jail at a young age. It is amazing to me that the Reformation produced virtually any martyrs and that its leaders took refuge behind the state with Zwingli dying with a sword in his hand. For all the high and mighty wrangle the Reformers used following the word “sola” it was just religious talk. Luther, admittedly, could not even get enough true believers together to form a Bible study. Well, this is a subject that raises my temperature a little so I’ll give it a rest.

Steve B.

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